Music and Texts of Gary Bachlund

 

Music and Texts of  GARY BACHLUND

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The fate lady sings

 

"Starke Scheite schichtet mir dort am Rande des Rheins zuhauf! Hoch und hell lodre die Glut, die den edlen Leib des hehrsten Helden verzehrt. Sein Ross führet daher dass mit mir dem Recken es folge: denn des Helden heiligste Ehre zu teilen, verlangt mein eigener Leib.Vollbringt Brünnhildes Wunsch!"  Brünnhilde, in Götterdämmerung, III, 3, by Richard Wagner.  [ 1 ]

 

The fate lady sings.
The opera is done.
The funding is over.
It had a good run.
More than a million
Went to one boss,
And many the more
Count it a loss.

 

The fate lady sings.
The opera has failed.
Fight to save what?
The fates have prevailed.
Moribund it was
As moribund things
Implode on themselves
While the fate lady sings.

 

The fate lady sings,
At the end of the act.
Numbers are withering
And that is a fact.
Fractures are part
Of dramas onstage.
Mismanagement's born
And then fails of age.

 

The fate lady sings;
Immolation's the scene.
Opera combusts
Unless heroes are keen
To tilt against dragons
Amid budgets' horns.
When heroes are lost,
The opera world mourns.

 

The fate lady sings
For a million and more
Were lavished upon
One who would score
While others would not,
Backstage as in front,
But opera itself
Must bear the worst brunt.
The fate lady sings
As time ticks away.
Opera's expensive
When talent's at  play.
When top talent takes
The most, and then more,
Then everyone else
Can consider their score.
The fate lady sings,
For that is her role.
As tragedies end,
They all take their toll.
A million seems lavish,
Rewarding collapse.
One thinks on the critics
And their uninformed slaps.
The fate lady sings,
For that is her fate.
In this there is nothing
About her great weight.
Looming quite large
At the last of the show,
She sings of its end,
Of dead heroes and woe.

Addendum of a Final Curtain:   "On 12 March 2009, the 58-year-old opera company announced plans to pursue Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation, the result of the company having filed a petition on 10 December 2008 under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code with the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maryland. Amongst the reasons cited were 'dwindling ticket sales and contributions'." In "Baltimore Opera Company," Wikipedia article, n. d.

 

Addendum of another Final Curtain:   "... the finger-pointing has begun, over the company's recent decisions to go dark during the 2008-09 season, to hire Belgian director Gerard Mortier, who backed out, and to leave Lincoln Center in the first place. "City Opera's demise is the fault of people with a lot of money but no common sense, from Susan Baker's absurd flirtation with Gerard Mortier to (board chairman) Charles Wall's foolish support of George Steel when the singers and orchestra unanimously had no confidence in Steel's artistic vision," Alan Gordon, national executive director for the American Guild of Musical Artists, told the Associated Press. The company has already sold off most of its costumes and sets, its endowment has shrunk to about $5 million in June 2012 from $48 million in 2008. So there really are no more reserves to draw on. Sadly, City Opera appears to have taken its final curtain call." In "Cash-Strapped New York City Opera Is Closing After 70 Years," by Adam Martin, New York Magazine, 2 October 2013.

 

Addendum of yet another final curtain:   "Longtime board member Carol Lazier contributed $1 million to help save the moribund opera, the L.A. Times reported. Lazier will present a reorganization plan, authored by trade group Opera America, to the board Thursday. The company should be able to function with some restructuring, because it still has large assets, and no debt, said the Union-Tribune. Financial troubles have exposed fractures within the company and its board. General and artistic director Ian Campbell and his ex-wife Ann Spira Campbell, the opera’s deputy general director, have been accused of mismanagement, and some say the pair make too much money. Their combined salaries were more than $1 million in 2010. They would also see a windfall of cash if the company is liquidated. The perception is that they did not fight hard enough to save the company." In "San Diego Opera, waiting for a savior, may have had its final curtain call," by Soraya Nadia McDonald, Washington Post, 14 April 2014.   [ 2 ]

 

Addendum of even more final curtains:   "...the Catania Opera is not alone. Florence’s Teatro del Maggio Musicale is seriously in the red, as are the opera houses in Rome, Bologna, Genoa, Parma, and Cagliari. In fact, reports Enrico Votio Del Refettiero, the influential writer who covers opera on the Luigi Boschi blog, only three Italian opera houses are currently able to pay their bills within two months: Milan’s La Scala in Milan, Venice’s La Fenice, and Turin’s Teatro Regio. 'Our opera house system is already shutting down,' he said. 'It’s gone, finished'." There’s a simple reason behind the desperate financial plight of Italy’s opera houses: Italy’s economic crisis has forced the government to slash arts funding. It used to be said that the opera isn’t over until the fat lady sings." In "The End of Italian Opera: Will They Wait for the Fat Lady to Sing?" by Elisabeth Braw, Newsweek, 26 December 2013.

 

 Addendum of Pulling the Plug:   "The Fort Worth Opera has pulled the plug on the sci-fi opera 'A Wrinkle in Time,' the $1.2 million world premiere by American composer Libby Larsen that was to have anchored the company's 2015 festival. General director Darren K. Woods says the festival will shrink from four productions to three next year because the company's fundraising has not kept up with rising costs." In "Fort Worth Opera Shelves World Premiere Of 'A Wrinkle In Time'," by Doualy Xaykaothao, KERA News, 16 February 2014.

 

Addendum of Crises:  "Both the European and US opera industries are in crisis, with house directors frantically trying to plug funding holes ripped by the recession. While Europeans reel from government funding cuts, Americans struggle to cope with shrunken endowment funds, disappearing donors and a drop in ticket sales. Nowhere has the crash been more devastating than in the US. Reliant upon wealthy private donors and ­endowments, which have slumped, ­opera houses face the new ­decade with a serious lack of cash. Usually more expensive than their state-subsidised European counterparts, their high ticket prices have also thinned out the middle market, emptying a worrying number of seats in the stalls. The Baltimore and Connecticut opera companies have already lost the battle and been forced to close, while almost all companies have seen cuts and cancelled parts of their seasons. Major players such as the Washington and Los Angeles operas – both have the star tenor Placido Domingo as their general director – have junked productions and trimmed staff, with Los Angeles soliciting a $14m state loan to tide it over. The New York City Opera, meanwhile, saw its new director, former Paris Opera head Gérard Mortier, leave before he had even brought anything to the stage when he felt unable to accept its recession budget of $34m – after requesting a still relatively low $70m." In "End of the aria as opera falls on hard times," by Feargus O’Sullivan, Financial Times, 25 March 2010.

 

Addendum mentioning Rubbish:   "The difficult part of the arts subsidy argument is one of quality control. One reason why the Arts Council has a dismal reputation in some quarters is that it has often given money to groups for what appear to be reasons of political or social engineering rather than to encourage quality. Nor is this confined to the Arts Council: the unlamented British Film Council had a hand in The King’s Speech, but it also had a hand in a lot of unutterable rubbish, some of which barely got distributed or even made it to DVD. Much of what they produced was of the Left-wing, self-hating variety, whose existence reminds us of one of the reasons why the contemporary French cinema is so much better than our own. Too many second-rate “artists” – be they screenwriters, directors, choreographers, “installation artists” or composers – were enabled to make a living purely because the state chose to subsidise their profoundly second-rate outpourings." In "The arts can survive, and thrive, without public money," by Simon Heffer. Telegraph UK, 7 May 2011.   [ 3 ]

 

NOTES

 

[ 1 ]   "Stack stout logs for me in piles there by the shore of the Rhine! High and bright let a fire blaze which shall consume the noble body of the mighty hero. Lead here his horse, that with me it may follow the warrior; for my own body longs to share the hero's holiest honor. Fulfill Brünnhilde's request!"

          The old joke about the "fat lady" is as a propos to today as it was in earlier years. One reads an interesting review of opera reviewers:   "Opera has had more than its share of spats over the corpulence of the ladies singing, and even, sometimes, the men. One soprano, Deborah Voigt, even had a gastric bypass, basically to get into a little black dress. In recent years, in line with the temper of the times, opera has become more conscious of physicality in casting, just as critics have become less likely to make overt attacks on performers because of their looks. It's quite possible that all of these men assumed, probably subconsciously, that because Erraught was playing a man, all bets were off, and they could, for a nice change, relax and have a good go at a woman for failing to be the physical embodiment of the culture's cliched dreams." In "Old, male opera critics are not the arbiters of all that is beautiful," by Deborah Orr, Guardian UK, 24 May 2014.

          One might also consider the current state of opera as stage direction and design. See:   How to Opera Germanly  .

 

[ 2 ]    "Also circulating in the plaza were sign-toting subscribers urging the ouster of Campbell and his ex-wife, Ann Spira Campbell, the company’s deputy general director. Their high salaries (which topped a combined $1 million in 2010) and the cash payouts they would receive upon liquidation, have infuriated critics." In "San Diego Opera: hoping for an encore," by Pam Kragen, Union-Tribune San Diego, 13 April 2014.

          More from southern California: "San Diego Opera officials seeking millions in government grants painted a picture of financial health over the past few years — a time during which financial troubles were well known inside the organization. In a 2012 application to the city of San Diego the opera noted — as it did in each year the company sought funding — that the organization had a balanced budget for 25 years and that the opera was in 'remarkably excellent fiscal health.' Now preparing for shutdown with funds near complete depletion, the group's leaders say they knew of financial troubles internally for years." In "Opera tapped public funds amid troubles," by Greg Moran, Union Tribune, San Diego, 11 April 2014.

 

[ 3 ]   Public funds means public opinions and political stances. One reads of one:   "We should cut funding for opera and give more money to brass bands, the former head of the Arts Council said yesterday. Liz Forgan – who was in charge of the Government’s arts spending until last year – admitted organisations such as the Royal Opera House should be forced to raise more private money rather than rely on public funds. Perhaps surprisingly for a woman who presided over the nation’s cultural elite for four years, she even claimed to prefer the brass bands of working-class northern towns to the music of Verdi and Wagner." In "Give money to brass bands, not opera, says ex-arts boss who wants organisations to raise their own funds," by Alasdair Glennie, Daily Mail UK, 26 March 2014.

          Reinforcing such a political stance, one reads:  "There are other problems with government funding too — political ones. The big grants are likely to go to those with political connections or political savvy. While the increased popularity of opera in the U.S. can be attributed to a lot of factors, it is encouraging that the growth seems to be mainly supported by private means. That way individual taste helps shape what you’ll see or hear — through buying tickets, subscribing, or donating small or large sums. And it means that opera companies, like other entities, have to prove themselves in the market." In "Opera funding — public or private?" by Fran Smith, Open Market, 31 July 2007.

          As to proving "in the market, one reads of one trend hope to hold fate away:  "The number of opera training programs and conservatories graduating voice and opera students has increased since the 1990s, outnumbering the jobs available for opera singers, he says: “There are more aspiring artists than the established infrastructure can support. With entrepreneurial spirit, they’re creating opera ensembles of their own.” Entrepreneurial desire to have an opera company may not always reap financial and critical success, note observers. “Quality is a tricky word,” says Scorca. “If you define quality as about size, there is nothing like San Francisco Opera. If you define quality — and this is where the audience comes in — as about really unexpected pieces, then for some people West Edge or Opera Parallèle may provide surprise. For others, it’s about youthfulness. It’s very subjective and it’s up to the audience to decide what they want.” In "Survival Economics: Small Opera Companies Drive Change," by Molly Colin, San Francisco Classical Voice, 21 May 2013.

 

Original material - Copyright © 2014  Gary Bachlund